WESTERN EUROPE — As part of the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector, 313th Air Expeditionary Wing crews flying air refueling missions work with aircraft from several partner nations.
Good communication is key to the air-refueling process. On any given sortie, tankers might be operating at different altitudes with their receivers following them waiting for fuel.
“Every 2,000 feet you have a tanker and their receivers,” said Master Sgt. Chris Meinken, in-flight refueling boom operator deployed here from the 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., who added that it can get very busy.
Capt. Viveca Lane, a pilot deployed from the 126th ARW, said even if other pilots aren’t directly speaking to her aircraft, the radio calls are tools to make sure everyone stays safe.
“It’s imperative that everyone is speaking clearly,” she said.
Captain Lane has a closer tie to some of those allied pilots than many of her fellow Airmen. Although she was born in America, her mother is a Danish citizen. Following her parents’ divorce, Captain Lane and her sister alternated living with their mother in her native country and her father in America.
Living in Denmark afforded Captain Lane the opportunity to become fluent in Danish, as well as gain a passing knowledge of the Norwegian and Swedish languages.
On a mission April 10, Captain Lane and her crew refueled aircraft from the Royal Norwegian and Royal Netherlands air forces. Following every fuel transfer, the tanker crew gives the receiver an offloading report and clears them to proceed to their next area of responsibility.
Even though English is the official aeronautical language according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, Captain Lane gave the Norwegian pilots’ report in their native tongue.
“It was just to be fun, and they came back in Norwegian,” she said. “It’s building a good rapport.”